Archive | Perspective RSS feed for this section

Flawless?

10 Jun
We are bombarded with adverts focused on the flesh. Commercials promising products to make you look younger, others that supposedly make your visage “flawless”. So too, in many circles, including the Church, we are all to often trying to make our lives look “flawless”. Putting our best foot forward and striving after godliness gets twisted into, avoidance and fear of failure, forgetting our faults, and silencing our struggles. This can cause us to feel shame for receiving treatment or help. It can manifest itself in hypocrisy and pride in the Church. It can weaken our view on sin and need of repentance. Even if we have been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb and clothed in his righteousness, as long as we live upon this earth, we will have flaws, struggles, and weaknesses. Those that cause us to remember our sin, cling to Christ, and yearn for Glory.
It is important to be honest with oneself and to examine our lives truthfully. To walk humbly before God and before man, remembering that God’s grace and mercy are given and flourish in the presence of brokenness not flawlessness.
Advertisements

Don’t Skip the Genealogies

18 Apr

genealogy graphicScripture is replete with various genealogies but many approach them with either indifference or with a negative mindset or emotions. There are various ways in which this plays out, for instance, people often see the lists, the begets, and the names and (1) skip past them altogether in order to get to the good stuff, (2) skim them out of a recognition for their inclusion in the Bible but give little actual attention to them, or (3) to be able to say they’ve actually read every word of the Bible.  I have fallen into all three at one time or another. But I would like to advocate for a fourth option—(4) recognize that these genealogies are no less inspired than any other passage, quote, or story in the Bible, that they play a purposeful and significant role in Scripture, that God has sovereignly determined their place and providentially kept them in the corpus of his Holy Word.

How then is that to change our interactions with the Word? First, choose not to skip past them, but to give them the time they deserve. This will likely require more time spent on these sections than you are used to, but it is worth it. Secondly, deliberately tackle these sections when you get to them. If you have difficultly seeing a genealogies purpose, check out some commentaries, think about the importance of the family or person that is the focus of the genealogy, read the text surrounding the genealogy for information to why it exists and why it is placed at that point in Scripture, try mapping the genealogy out on paper as a visual aid, and don’t hesitate to ask a trusted Christian who spends a lot of time in the Word for help.

Let’s look briefly at one genealogy from Exodus 6:14-25:

  1. Israel
    1. Reuben
      1. Hanoch
      2. Pallu
      3. Hezron
      4. Carmi
    2. Simeon
      1. Jemuel
      2. Jamin
      3. Ohab
      4. Jachin
      5. Zohar
      6. Shaul
    3. Levi
      1. Gershom
        1. Libni
        2. Shimei
      2. Kohath
        1. Amram
          1. Aaron
            1. Nadab
            2. Abihu
            3. Eleazar
              1. Phinehas
            4. Ithama
          2. MOSES
        2. Izhar
          1. Korah
            1. Assir
            2. Elkanah
            3. Abiasaph
          2. Nepheg
          3. Zichri
        3. Hebron
        4. Uzziel
          1. Mishael
          2. Elzaphan
          3. Sithri
      3. Merari
        1. Mahli
        2. Mushi

Moses, the author according to orthodox teaching, recounts family lines of Israel. He begins with the sons of Reuben, then the Sons of Simeon, then of Levi, but then we see a change; he goes further into each of Levi’s sons. Why? The point is to show the historicity and family line of Moses and Aaron (v26–27), to give credit to the overall progression of God’s dealing with men (particularly his people), to show God’s faithfulness to his covenants with Abraham, Isaac, and Israel (and all those called by his name), to show Moses’ and Aaron’s familial tie to the people who are in bondage in Egypt, to show that they too are mere men being used by the almighty God, and to show us that the God we serve is the same faithful, saving, powerful, wrathful, gracious God. A few more interesting things can be noted:

Aaron’s family is taken the furthest in the genealogy. This may cause the reader to think he was given the prime focus, but this is not so—read on. He is second in focus (v26-27); his sons will carry out the priestly line; Nadab and Abihu will be judged for the liberties they take with worship; Phinehas will have great zeal for the Lord and by doing so, save lives (Num. 25).

No other sons of Israel/Jacob are included after Levi. Why? because it is focuses on Moses and Aaron who come from the 3rd eldest son of Israel.

Korah’s line is expanded one more generation unlike all but Aaron’s. Why? Was there a lot of barren women? No, more likely because Korah’s family played a prominent role to come; for instance, they rose up against Moses and Aaron in opposition to God’s design of the Aaronic priesthood (Numbers 16), and the sons of Korah wrote a good portion of the Psalms.

Moses’s line is not expanded even though we know he had sons (Exo. 4:20, 25); this is deliberate. Why? And here we see that the focus of this genealogy is Moses. We know based upon v26–27 that it is about Aaron and Moses; we know Moses’ family does extend; we know that Moses was the main mediator and servant God used at this time; we know that Moses is one of the major shadow’s of Christ Jesus who was to come (as a prophet, priest, king, servant, saviour, etc).

As you can see, there is much that can be learned from genealogies in Scripture. I hope you will have a desire to give them the time they deserve, since they are no less inspired or authoritative or sufficient for the Christians’s life.

What else do you see?

(graphic source: genealogylaois.com)

 

15 Dangers of Self-Pity

18 Dec

Self-pity puts the self first.
Self-pity can lead to cynicism.
Self-pity can lead to inactivity.
Self-pity can lead to negativism.
Self-pity can lead to depression.
Self-pity is contrary to the Gospel.
Self-pity is an enemy of contentment.
Self-pity often forgets the plight of others.
Self-pity forgets that suffering is part of life.
Self-pity can cause you to be critical of others.
Self-pity takes the mind off of God’s promises.
Self-pity often forgets the benefits of suffering.
Self-pity is adverse to determination and perseverance.
Self-pity takes the eyes off of the many blessings given you.
Self-pity is self-perpetuating and will increase in its destructive power.

Self-pity is a gnawing evil. Instead of pitying the self, pity Christ.

“Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who…emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross.” -Philippians 2:5-8

“Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” : ISIS, Suffering, Death and the Opening of Eyes to the Problem of Evil

20 Nov

Are all people inherently good? This is a question asked by many who think deep enough to consider the World and humanity. While the question is a good one, the cognate of that question that the idealist rather blindly states is more striking: “All people are inherently good.” Are such statements products of an internal, false hope? Hard hearts? Willful suspension of reality for the self preservation of those without a sound answer and solid hope?

Are reality-disjointed, pseudo-utopic propositions such as these growing in popularity, maintaining ground, or dampening like the sound of echoes in a canyon? Whatever the global trend may be, the guest journalists on the Diane Rehm show this morning seemed to have a more realistic, observational acuity.

A woman named Elizabeth called in from St. Louis, MO to contribute the following:

“I’m 87years old: One brother was killed and one brother was crippled in the second  World War, and I keep hoping that the world is going to achieve peace…how can we bring some stronger emphasis on this side of the human spirit?”

Hope is good. Elizabeth asks as good a question as the inquisitive person who seeks to know if man at his root is morally good or bad. Both are valid and important questions that need answering. And we can see that Elizabeth is searching for a solution. She wants light to be shed on the question of the growing, persistent evil in the world around her. Don’t we all want a clear solution to that problem?

In response, Yochi Dreazen, managing editor of Foreign Policy, correctly observes that peace is not natural in the world. The world testifies to the persistent problem of evil and darkness.

 “…I wish we could say that in my lifetime, the lifetime of my children, we could get to a place where this type of peace she prays for happens, but it’s hard to look at the events of the world today and say it’s going to happen.”

This man’s response makes me wonder: are the persistent wars and rumours of wars beginning to change that false, idealist mindset of the goodness of humanity? Is the in-your-face, unashamedly brazen presence of extremists, human suffering, and death reversing the polarity of the collective understanding of humanity’s condition?

Diane Rehm, the host of the NPR show of the same name, wonders about a parallel concern:

“…is this [the training of young boys to be fighters/killers] going on in just one part of the world?”

Shane Harris, Senior Intelligence &National Security Correspondent for The Daily Beast, with even more clarity, responds:

 “No, I think there’s a culture of violence in many places. I mean, we have a culture of violence in THIS country. And I’m not trying to draw false parallels here, but you know, I think it is in human nature. You know, that’s why we call it Winning the Peace. You know, I think we’re somehow predisposed as human beings toward conflict. I know that’s a grand statement but I think it is backed up by what you are seeing on display in the world right now. And I mean, we talk about the Second World War: there are many ways where the state of the world DOESN’T look all that different, fundamentally, at the root, and I mean, maybe, you know, it’s a sad commentary, but maybe THIS is who we are, and that actually Winning the Peace is something to strive for; that is rare.”

Shane nailed it. He not only observes the evil prevalent in all crannies of the globe, including here at home in the United States, but he acknowledges that it is part of human nature, that we are predisposed toward enmity. It is fundamental. It is at the root. It is a sad commentary. But it is true. It might be said of Shane, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God“(Mark 12.34b).

Where Shane possibly gets it wrong, depending upon the extent of his meaning, is that “Winning at Peace” is something we can do. We can certainly uphold justice, and promote peace, but ultimately, there is but one hope for peace, and that is Jesus Christ, our Peace. It is he, and he alone that can bring true and lasting peace to individuals and to the world at the end of the age.

The biggest blind spot for many people is self awareness. With the terrible refrains of death and destruction daily coming forth from our iPads, phones, and televisions, little room is left for those calling  the black sheep, white without them being deemed absurd. Yet for those who stubbornly persist in claims of the righteousness of man, the world is a stumbling block. They must answer with ideas such as, “Well, we are all good, but then someone corrupts that good.” But if we are all good, how are there so many corrupters? And when reflecting upon the evil that is present, many seem to consider darkness to be out in the world. They harden their hearts to the radical depravity of their own souls, not recognizing that they each contribute to the make-up of humanity. Humanity is an assemblage of humans—depraved humans. And you, me, and Elizabeth are all polluted with that same dark nature.

I hope there are more with as keen a sight as Yochi, and moreso, Shane. I hope the world begins to recognize just how far and deep sin goes—just how tremendous a problem evil is. And I hope that in doing so, they will continue to search for the answer that Elizabeth is seeking. And by God’s grace, many more will find it. They will find the answer that has been around since the Fall of mankind that plunged each and every one of us into the dark place of depravity. By the good mercy of God, they will know that what is needed is the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

But isn’t the Gospel good news? Why would you use the Gospel to awaken the conscious to darkness? Because God uses the darkness to show the brightness of his Son; the Good News needs first convict the person of their sin, then the eternal and promised hope of salvation in Jesus Christ from sin can be made clear. Only after conviction of sin do we know our need of a Saviour. I pray that by his Spirit, the Lord God Jehovah will awaken minds, and soften hearts to the truth of the darkness of the soul and the desperate need of the Saviour. Only after we know we are soiled do we bathe in the purifying, cleansing blood of Jesus. The Gospel is “the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth” (Romans 1.16).  We live in the age of grace, and God is adding to Christ’s inheritance those that will join him for eternity— those called by his grace. Maybe the downward spiral of the earth, the proliferation of darkness, will also be what God Almighty uses to bring many to himself? Perhaps that is one way he will boil the pots of the cold and lukewarm.

 

Quotes taken from The Diane Rehm Show™, and can be accessed at: https://thedianerehmshow.org/audio#/shows/2015-11-20/friday-news-roundup-international/111488/@00:00

(beginning at 43:50)

Words that Hurt

27 Sep
Do people speak evil of you?
Are they justified in doing so?
If not, you are not alone:
Be not silent, O God of my praise!
For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me,
speaking against me with lying tongues.
They encircle me with words of hate,
and attack me without cause.
In return for my love they accuse me,
but I give myself to prayer.
So they reward me evil for good,
and hatred for my love.
-Psalm CIX.1–5
One way of combatting those words of malice is through prayer. Pray to the God of the bible in your anguish. Pray for peace. Pray that you would find contentment in Jesus despite the hateful words. Pray for the souls and attitudes of those who speak ill of you. Give yourself to prayer when they return hate for your love. And above all else, remember that Christ Jesus—fully God—humbled himself by becoming a man; he died a gruesome death; and even worse, “He who knew no sin became sin for us,” and took the wrath for those who would believe in him. He did this all out of love, to the glory of God. The people returned that love with cruelty, hatred, jealousy, mocking, scorn, flogging, embarrassment, and crucifixion. Take comfort in knowing that your Saviour suffered in the same way, only much worse, for you.